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You don’t have to be married to be obedient…

“You don’t have to be married to be obedient”… 

I let these words wash over me the morning of my twenty-ninth birthday last year, just two months before the lockdown started. I knew exactly what these words meant, and I was met with anticipation, confusion, excitement, and a little bit of frustration, all at the same time.

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a mom. When playing “house” with my siblings or friends, I always took on that role. Maybe it was my oldest child personality or strong “leadership” skills that consistently wanted me to be in charge. Let’s be real, I was bossy. But that was one thing I was certain of: children were meant to be part of my future family. There was no world or reality where that wasn’t going to be the case.

I remember finishing out college and the majority of my friends were getting married left and right. It felt like my weekends were spent driving or flying to a different city, preparing to celebrate another couple near and dear to my heart. In a five year span, I attended thirty-two weddings. Yes, you read that correctly. I watched these friends start their families with ease and I wondered why that wasn’t my story. I spent a lot of my twenties frustrated and confused, wondering why the Lord seemed endlessly silent on this topic. It felt like it didn’t matter how often I was praying or how honest I was in those conversations with Jesus; it appeared to always be met with radio silence.

On the morning of that birthday, I took the day off work and met my best friend for breakfast. If this isn’t something you’re already doing, I highly recommend it. I sat in a booth, at an empty restaurant in Campbell at 9am, and poured my heart out to this trusted confidant. She earnestly and graciously sat with me through my tears and pain. Part way through that conversation, it felt like time had briefly stopped. You know those moments in movies where the camera shows everyone frozen but the person can move and speak outside of time and space? That’s how this moment felt, for just a brief second. In that moment, I felt these words cover me like a giant blanket: “You don’t have to be married to be obedient…”

Believe me, this wasn’t what I was expecting. I was thoroughly enjoying my eggs and potatoes, and it felt like someone rubbed salt into a wound I wasn’t ready to reopen, especially on my birthday. Not only was I being reminded that I was still single, I also hadn’t been obedient. Ouch. I shared these words and instantaneous thoughts and it felt like something shifted in the atmosphere around us. As we began dissecting this, the conversation inevitably came back to foster care.

In conversations about my future family, foster care was always a non-negotiable for me. Call it what you will, but that’s what the Lord has called me to. For me, the gospel has always been so clear about opening our homes and caring “for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). I just always thought this was something I’d be starting and doing alongside a husband. Now, hear me when I say this: there is nothing wrong with raising kids independently. I have friends who are single parents and their stamina, grace, and dedication blow me away. It’s just that in my idyllic painted picture, I always envisioned that journey with a partner.

After I managed to wipe away a good amount of the tears from my eyes, with a restaurant napkin not meant for tears, I found myself looking through Foster the City’s website. Their vision and heart for foster youth was something that gripped my soul deeply. I remember thinking “I’m already on board”, which was convenient since there was an interest meeting just two weeks from that date. In the weeks leading up to this meeting, I created space to pray, ponder, and chat with trusted friends about what I was about to embark on. I asked them to pray with me, for me, and provide their most honest feedback. I was continually met with “wow, yes you should”.

As I walked through the doors into this meeting, alongside the same trusted friend, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We found a spot at a table in the very front, which definitely isn’t my jam, and people from the stage began to speak. Staggering statistics, an undeniable vision, and a very clear call to action was set before me. For me, the call was even more clear after that night.

I want to get back to that initial prompting: “you don’t have to be married to be obedient”. These words run through my head often. Sure, it’s a gentle reminder about where I’m at, which didn’t feel great at first; but over the last thirteen months, it’s shifted my focus. It has pulled my gaze off of myself and to the grandness of our God. He’s been reminding me, “hey, I have this plan for you. Will you step into it with me?”, and that’s something I can’t ignore. And neither should you.

So, regardless of where you’re at in terms of life stage, family, schooling, parenting, etc… the reminder is we still need to be obedient. I’ll be the first to admit that this journey hasn’t been the easiest. I’ve been met with obstacles, difficult conversations, and preparation for what’s to come in my journey with foster care, but God’s calling and invitation still stands. I challenge you, friend, to walk in faith and obedience, because I know one thing is for sure: God is always worth it. 

Nicole Presley

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Build the Bed

IKEA holds a unique spot in my heart. It has never failed to offer me a furniture or home goods solution that both met my needs and fit my budget. In fact, I think IKEA could provide a unique framework for pre-marital counseling. The betrothed couple could be required to plan, design, furnish, and decorate their new shared bedroom solely with products from IKEA. Counseling sessions would be structured throughout the process, and the couple would have a chance to practice everything from budgeting to compromise to forgiveness. (Lots and lots of forgiveness if my marriage’s history with IKEA is any indication.)

Now that I’m a foster parent, IKEA is practically my fifth Support Friend. Need a bed? IKEA’s got it. Need another set of sheets? IKEA’s got them. Need a fluffy, soft stuffed animal? IKEA’s even got those!

I promise this isn’t an advertisement for IKEA. The store is simply on my mind, because I just finished building another bed in our home.

A few days ago, we got a call we didn’t expect – a young man that we care about had been placed in foster care. He’s outside of our expected age range, and, even though we had space in our home, we didn’t have a proper bed. Without hesitation, I donned a face mask and drove to Palo Alto.

I walked through that massive warehouse and prayed for this young man. He was no longer a nameless, faceless foster youth. He wasn’t an ambiguous anecdote or a harrowing statistic. He was a teenager who appears in my Google photos. He was a young man that I’ve known for more than a year. He was a boy sitting in a “welcome center” waiting for a family to say, “Welcome home.”

Over the past several years, we’ve received placement calls for every age range: newborn, toddler, preschooler, elementary student, pre-teen, and now, teenager.

Every time we’ve accepted a placement in a new age range, I’ve built a new bed: cribs, toddler beds, twin beds, bunk beds, and now, a sturdy bed for a boy who is becoming a man.

I haven’t yet discovered how to cure the ills that make foster care necessary, but I have figured out how to read IKEA instructions.

So as long as a child needs a safe place to lay their head, I will continue to build the bed.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

God, give us the courage to build the beds. Instill in us a holy spirit of hospitality. Create in our homes safe spaces for children to heal and grow. Create in our communities safe spaces for families to recover and reunify. Give us the ability to bear one another’s burdens and offer each other rest. Give us the humility to rely solely on you in these efforts and to give you all the glory for the results. Amen.

Erin O’Roarke